William Penn Lecture
Religion As Reality,
Life And Power
Race Street Meeting House
Rufus M. Jones
This is the fifth of the series of lectures known as
the WILLIAM PENN LECTURES. They are supported by
the Young Friends' Movement of Philadelphia Yearly
Meeting, which was organized on Fifth month thirteenth, 1916,
at Race Street Meeting House in Philadelphia, for the
purpose of closer fellowship; for the strengthening by such
association and the interchange of experience, of loyalty to the ideals
of the Society of Friends; and for the preparation by
such common ideals for more effective work thru the Society
of Friends for the growth of the Kingdom of God on earth.
The name of William Penn has been chosen
because he was a Great Adventurer, who in fellowship with his
friends started in his youth on the holy experiment of
endeavoring "to live out the laws of Christ in every thought, and
word, and deed," that these might become the laws and habits
of the State.
Dr. Rufus M. Jones, of Haverford College, delivered
this fifth lecture on "Religion as Reality, Life and Power," at
Race Street Meeting House on Fifth month tenth, 1919.
Philadelphia, Pa., 1919.
Published 1919 by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Republished electronically © 2004 by Quaker Heron Press
email: [email protected]
Religion As Reality, Life and Power
A young friend of mine, Christopher Morley, has
a passage in one of his recent essays which caught my eye
in a newspaper and arrested my attention. It was as follows:
"In every man's heart there is a secret nerve
that answers to the vibration of beauty. I can imagine no
more fascinating privilege than to be allowed to ransack the
desk of a thousand American business men, men supposed to
be hard-headed, absorbed in brisk commerce. Somewhere
in each desk one would find some hidden betrayal of that
man's private worship. It might be some old newspaper
clipping, perhaps a poem that had once touched him, for even
the humblest poets are stout partisans of reality. It might be
a photograph of children playing in the surf, or a little box
of fish-hooks, or a soiled old time-table of some queer
back-woods railroad or primitive steamer service that had
once carried him into his land of heart's desire."
This is as good a preliminary definition of religion
as we could wish. It is something that carries one into
"the land of heart's desire." It is something which gives us
a vision of what ought to be. This informal definition has
the advantage of being in complete accord with one of the
finest and most perfect descriptions of religion that has ever
been written _ the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the
Hebrews, where religion is treated as the capacity to see the
invisible and to enable the possessor of it to live by his soul's
vision of reality. The writer calls faith the capacity to
seek successfully the true country of the heart's desire, "the
city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is
God." "They seek a country of their own," he says, that is,
a fatherland of the heart's desire.1
There are many pursuits and experiences which
carry us toward this attainment, and in so far as they take us
in that direction, _ the direction of the soul's true country
_ they are either religious or at least in the fringe of
religion. To speak a little more plainly, and less in the language
of metaphor, I shall consider religion in this lecture as a
way of realizing and fulfilling life, a way of finding the whole
of oneself. Life is a very ambiguous word and may mean
almost anything. It may mean hardly more than the ability to
stay alive, to exhibit behavior, bare biological survival,
successful correspondence with a physical environment; or it may
mean the discovery of infinite interior dimensions and
possibilities, the finding of almost inexhaustible resources and
supplies of power for the continual expansion of personal
capacity and so the constant winning of unwon goals and
the perennial acquisition of joy.
The bare fact of going on, of keeping the
procession moving, does not seem to a reflective person such a
very great achievement after all. If life were only a series of
items one after the other, a succession of dots of
experience, extended in a single dimension, it would soon grow
very dreary and one could hardly thrill much as he joined
in singing the hymn:
"When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we first begun."
This sterile, static stagnant life is too insipid to
make any effective appeal to our imagination.
The "Preacher," in Ecclesiastes, has this flat
and fruitless kind of life in mind when he says:
"Vanity of vanities
All is vanity.
What gain hath a man of his whole toil,
Which under the sun he toils.
* * * *
"The sun rises and the sun sets,
Hasting back to the place where he rises.
The wind goeth to the north
And then turneth back to the south.
In circular process
All the streams flow to the sea
But the sea is not full.
Unto the place whence the streams flow,
There they flow again.
All things are full of weariness
Man cannot utter it.
That which hath been is that which shall be
There is no new thing under the sun!"
What we want is to discover a way to enrich and heighten the quality of life and not merely to add to
the quantity of it. We are seeking for a dynamic force which
will raise the intrinsic power and value of life. We can get out
of that dreary row of dots, the seriatim way of living, only
by finding something that organizes life from above and
makes it a cumulative affair, something that stores up the gains
of it and forms them into a permanent and expanding whole.
We tend to fall into the one-dimension track _ often
a rut or a groove, and we thus miss the wider, freer
possibilities of the many dimensional life. We are very apt,
furthermore, to get cut off, isolated and stranded, which means that
we get separated from the completer wholes of being to
which we properly belong. Most of the tragedies of human life
are these tragedies of separation and division. The divided
self, sundered from its fellowship and companionship for
which it was made, is always a sick and feeble soul. The way
of health and healing is a way of union and
correspondence with those necessary realities from which we have
become isolated and we shall find that religion is one of the
mightiest of all the constructive, unifying forces we know. As the
word implies, religion binds back the soul into union with
realities which refresh it, restore it, vivify it, and integrate it
and complete it; i.e., put it in possession of the whole of itself.
Let us deal first with those agencies of life which
are certainly in the fringe of religion, even if they do not
quite go up to the apex and centre of its highest ranges.
The passion for the pursuit of truth is one of these agencies
of life which lies very close to the field of religion. It has
its roots in deep lying instincts, like curiosity, question
asking, wonder; more than all, perhaps, in that fundamental
feature of human personality _ the tendency to look beyond
and reach on ahead of everything given in experience,
the tendency which makes even the least imaginative of
us ideal-forming beings.
We cannot stop and rest satisfied with any bare
fact. We look both before and after. We ask, and we cannot
help asking, what caused the fact, what was its antecedent.
We are, too, forced by an inevitable compulsion of our nature
to anticipate, to forecast the significance of each fact and
plot out its future results. We cannot tie any fact in
isolation and be contented to stand and stare at it and report it in
its lonely nakedness. We are bound to link it up with more
and to explain it and make it articulate.
And in order to explain it we find it necessary to go
on and discover the larger whole to which it belongs, of
which it is a part and in which its setting, and so its
explanation, is revealed. The flower in the crannied wall, plucked out
of the crannies, taken just by itself, apart from the
environment in which it lives, cannot be understood or explained. In
order to explain and understand it fully, "root and all and all
in all," we should have to link it up with all the
interrelated facts of the universe and we should need to know, to
the fullest extent, "what God and man is"!
The rational pursuit of truth is thus the method
of discovering the meaning of some fragment of experience
by setting it into its place in the larger whole which explains
it. It involves the power to survey facts from above, as
one views a landscape from a mountain top, and to see
things steadily and connectedly in relationship with
the more to which they belong. There is obviously no place to stop
in this process until one has arrived at that One Highest
Nature of Things in which all things and we ourselves
are _ that true whole in which all finite bits and fragments have
their meaning. We are "led as by the hand" up to the God who
is the inclusive, living, organic whole, dimly implied
and suggested at least in the finite parts, which we are trying
Many, to be sure, who have the passion for truth
do not go the whole way to the end of the trail. They draw
a smaller curve and keep within the limits of
finite explanations,. They do not raise the question of what
is ultimately involved in the meaning of their facts. But
even so they find themselves steadily carried out to ever
wider groups of facts and they see more or less clearly that
all their explanations point to a more beyond, which must
some time be included and that all stopping places short of a
self-explanatory Reality are artificial.
Science, with its excessive predilection for
mathematics and its tendency to reduce the universe to realities
which can be exactly described and charted, sometimes
ends, though it does not need to do so, with a world stripped
of spiritual values and rolling monotonously in space with
no word of any source or goal other than that implied by
the consolidating movement of atoms. That kind of a
world, however, is so plainly a fragment, and an abstraction
from a Larger whole, that a seeker for truth, one who has a
real passion for it, can hardly be long satisfied with such
an inadequate substitute for the rich and concrete world
which has values as well as mass movements.
In any case, this agency of life is one which brings
very much enlargement and expansion to personality.
Every attainment of insight carries one on to a new problem
and so widens out the field of interest and keeps the soul
growing. Each discovery of truth brings a profound emotion of
joy and so heightens the tone and capacity of the mind
and qualifies it for its further tasks. It may be and sometimes
is a feeling of egoistic satisfaction _ "I discovered that."
"I put in my thumb
And pulled out that plum
What a great man am I!"
But more often the discovery of truth ministers
to humility. The very search for it makes one aware of
the littleness of his attainments, the immensity of the
range and circle of his ignorance, and the small ratio of what
is won compared with what is unwon. And finally he will
be thrilled, if he is a good person, with the thought that
this new insight which he has just attained will add to the
total stock of human knowledge, will widen the area of light
and will serve all men hereafter in their struggles and
pursuits, and the emotion will thus in its altruistic color be close
to real religious feeling and so will be an enlarging and
a consecrating agency.
The appreciation of beauty, the enjoyment of "whatsoever things are lovely," is another agency of life
which lies very close to religion and it is beyond question one
of the great exalting and liberating influences. It both
enlarges and consecrates man's life. Modern educators
have discovered, or perhaps we ought to say rediscovered,
the fact that love of beauty is a great ally to goodness.
The cultivation of appreciation for the beautiful in nature,
in art; in literature, in music, is one of the surest high
roads to the formation of fine ideals of character, which is
the most triumphantly beautiful creation in the world.
The child that has a passion for beauty is morally
safer than is the child that has this side of his character
starved. Joy in the contemplation of beauty expels low aims
and carries one out of the circle of narrow, selfish
interests. Wordsworth's testimony to the way in which a sight
of surpassing beauty affected his life is impressive on this point.
"To the brim
My heart was full;
I made no vows, but vows
Were then made for me; bond unknown to me
Was given, that I should be, else sinning greatly
A dedicated spirit."2
It is not easy to define what constitutes the "secret"
of beauty, nor to tell just what the essential mark of it
really is. The authorities disagree and most of us never raise
the question. We feel the thrill at the right moment, and that
is enough. The deeper question, however, which I have raised
is an important one and has real bearing on the problem
of the nature of religion. One point seems certain. When
we appreciate beauty we apprehend an object as an
indivisible whole and not as something made up of parts added
together. We select out and seize all the aspects of the object
which fit together to make one unified whole. What the mind
gets in this experience is a harmonious unity in diversity,
which makes a single impression upon us and which appears
to us as something that is just as it ought to be.
That means that there is nothing accidental or capricious about
it. Nothing must be there which is brought in for its own
sake, Every aspect must minister to produce, and must
be harmonious with, an integral whole. There must be
nothing in the natural scene, nothing in the beautiful creation
which distracts; or which is superfluous, or which tends to
break up the unified impression and attract attention to
It is one striking effect of the perception,
contemplation and appreciation of beauty that it brings for the moment
at least all the powers of the soul into a harmony in which
the dualisms and contradictions of life are overcome
and annulled. We suddenly become aware of free and spontaneous powers, of something unfathomable
within ourselves. Limits and boundaries seem to drop away
and disappear and an aspect of the infinite seems to come
into play. The finite object which we are contemplating seems
to be a window into an eternal world and we are carried
beyond all our eyes see or our ears hear.
"Suddenly we know not how, a sound
Of living streams, an odor, a flower crowned
With dew, a lark upspringing from the sod,
And we awake. O joy and deep amaze,
Beneath the everlasting hills we stand,
We hear the voices of the morning seas,
And earnest prophesyings in the land,
While from the open heaven leans forth at gaze
The encompassing great cloud of
Such experiences expand and liberate the soul,
they remove the narrow limits and the pressure of the finite,
and they bring a sudden release of joy as though we had
found that for which we were meant
But this experience of beauty, may and often does,
stop short of the true end of life. Beauty often produces a kind
of sudden spell and enchantment without supplying
discipline and control to the will, without training and organizing
the person to meet temptation and the stern choices of life.
It does not of itself take the beholder beyond the stage
of emotion to a real achievement of character. Lovers of
beauty are not always morally robust. It is quite
possible, furthermore, to make beauty an end in itself, to treat it
as though it were a world of its own and needed no Beyond
to explain it and complete it, so that exalting and
consecrating as it is, beauty does not necessarily carry its devotee all
the way home to the real country and fatherland of the soul.
Another of the great agencies of life is the active
spirit of service, the promotion of social causes, devoted
struggle for the life of others. This aim at service is very close
to religion and is always a feature of any great religion. It
has its roots, as is the case with all these agencies of life,
in native, fundamental instincts and emotions. It is as
original a trait of personality as is the self-seeking struggle
The springs of egoism are no more primitive and
no more built into the fibre of human nature than are
the springs of altruism. Both are essential to personal life as
we know it, and wherever life shapes itself towards the
formation of personality, interest in others, "the other regarding"
spirit, comes into play and is a momentous shaping factor.
The tender emotions of pity, sympathy, affection, interest
in others' welfare, look away from the focus of self and are
as "disinterested" as is love of beauty.
There is no way to reduce human life to the single
strand of self-interest, any more than one can plane a board
so thin that it shall have only one side. A single,
solitary, individual self apart from relationships with others has
no more reality than a Jabberwock. There isn't any such
thing. Stripped of social affiliations, a person shrinks at once
to zero. St. Paul's saying, "If I have not love, I am nothing,"
is absolutely sound psychology. We are joined in with
the deeper life of humanity and we cannot cut ourselves
asunder without at the same time annihilating ourselves.
Consecration to ends beyond our own private
interests is as rational an aim as is the pursuit of food. The
team-spirit, which is joyous co-operation with others for the
sake of common ends, is a widely prevalent spirit and it is
a contagious attitude. My reverend teacher, Josiah
Royce, has nobly described this attitude of life in his book
on Loyalty. By loyalty he meant willing and
thorough-going devotion to a cause which unites many selves into
one organic community-self. Wherever this team-spirit type
of devotion possesses people, life seems to attain through
it an unwonted bloom and glory.
Enthusiasm, contagion of spirit, heightened power,
self-forgetfulness, readiness to suffer, endure and even die
for the common cause are the great by-products of it. It is
one of the most beautiful flowers that has grown on what
our Norse ancestors used to call our human "igdrasil tree."
The highest form of it, its consummate stage, is
love. Almost nothing else here in our world so dignifies
and enlarges life as love does:
"Not only to keep down the base in man
But teach high thought, and amiable words
And courtliness, and the desire of fame,
And love of truth and all that makes a man"
But love does more than expand and enlarge, it consecrates life to ends of unselfish goodness. We here
pass by all aims and springs and desires to
get, and we discover at length what it means to give and to
share. We are ready now to be impoverished and stripped for the good of
another. We no longer talk about "sacrifices." The word has no
place in the vocabulary of love, for whatever is done or suffered,
it is a joyous gift. The "me" and the "mine" are swallowed
up in the "us" and "our."
"Number there in love is slain."
It is, however, no loss of self, no reduction
and shrinkage, but a way of completion and fulfillment. As
is true of all these agencies of life, loyalty and love raise
the individual out of his isolation and singleness into
the experience of a wider whole. Our tragedies are due to
the fragmentary character of life and experience. Our joys
always spring from the attainment of unities. When we can
span the dividing gaps and bring together in one living whole
the things that usually fall apart, we get the thrill of
satisfaction which comes when something is as it ought to be. Love
is undoubtedly the greatest of all the unifying forces
which construct the real world which our spirits seek, and there
is no higher baptism into the full meaning of life than
the sacrament of love.
Pursuit of truth, appreciation of beauty, dedication
to the welfare of others, love for another, are all
religious agencies. They all enlarge and liberate the personal life,
they all bring it into closer unity with the whole of reality,
they all give it a touch of consecration and bring a
genuine experience of joy, and yet each one of these agencies and
all of them combined may fall short of the complete meaning
of religion. The reason why they may, and sometimes do,
fall short of the real goal is that men tend to draw too narrow
a circle and to terminate the aim on an object which is
not rich and inclusive enough to meet all the needs of the
human soul. Nothing is adequate for man which stops short
of binding the human and the divine together into one
single life-process. It is not a different life from this human life
of ours that we seek; it is not an "other" world
somewhere beyond this one that we desire. We seek rather this
wonderful human life opened out in all dimensions, raised to its
full stature and brought into vital correspondence with its
whole environment, the truly real world, not merely with
this tangible outer fragment of it.
There is a vast difference in people, and we must
be careful how we assume to speak for the more than
fifty-seven varieties. Some persons seem to get on with
limitations of thought and faith and experience which would seem
to others like imprisonment in a nutshell. I can of course
only speak in what I say here for those who are more or
less conscious that they are allied to an infinite Companion
and who feel restless and defeated until their finite life
comes into harmonious relation with this Source of peace and
joy and power. If some person says that he is contented
with things and asks for nothing but a satisfactory supply of
the "goods" which earth produces, I can only reply
that something which was included in my make-up appears
to have been omitted from his.
The most striking thing about the type of human
life which I should suppose is normal is its infinite reach.
The conscious person is always stretching on beyond his
attained limits. Whatever he may have arrived at, he looks out
upon more yet. No number is so big that he cannot add one to
it. No realm of space is so wide that he cannot think of it
as bounded with more space, No character is so pure and
holy that he cannot conceive it as still more saintly and
endowed with more virtues. No achievements that can be
recounted exhaust our capacity to think of greater ones. No
terminus to personality can be discovered, no stopping place can
be suggested, no horizon fixes its goal. We are
certainly potentially infinite and the very fact that we are
always transcending ourselves and trying endlessly to find the
rest of ourselves means, I think, that we are made for God,
that we cannot help seeking Him because we have in
some measure found Him already and that we are
therefore "incurably religious."
To be fully and truly human is continually to approximate God; to have one's finite life embedded in
the infinite life. It must be admitted, however, that many
people seem never consciously to find God and so fail of that
peace and buoyancy which comes from living faith in
His companionship with us. They do not altogether fail, but
they do not attain to a triumphant faith and to an
experience which enables them to stand the universe in all weathers.
One reason for the partial failure is due almost
certainly to an unfortunate and inadequate way of thinking of
God. The idea they have of Him is no longer a live idea,
and so no longer dynamic. It does not fuse and quicken the soul
and bring it to the acutely sensitive state necessary for a
first-hand experience of God. Some persons, probably
many persons, think of the universe as an immense
mechanism, complex beyond all imagination, but so arranged that
each bit of action or motion in it is caused by the motion of
the other mechanical parts. The only place that seems left
for God is far off at the origin of the whole scheme as the
starter of it, or in behind all the scenery of the vast world where
in calm contemplation He beholds it go on. This is deism
and its God is little better than no God. The next easy step is
to "eliminate" Him altogether and let the world run itself
and, like the present day automobile, be supplied with a
H. G. Wells has expressed what many other
persons vaguely believe, that God is omni-everything, infinite
and absolute, but wholly unlike us, superpersonal and
perhaps superconscious, the vast dim abyss and the matrix of
all that is, an inexhaustible source of energy, outside and
above the whole complex tangle of existence, so that in order
to get a real God whom we care for and who cares for us,
we must have, besides this dim Veiled Being, a "finite God,"
a "demi-God," a "second God"! Wells has no doubt
crudely put this situation in his recent books, but many
persons without his literary gift of utterance hold some
such background view and are trying to get on with a God
as vague and indefinite as these negative words `infinite'
and `absolute' are bound to make Him. One can hardly expect
to get great flushes of life and power from believing ever
so valiantly in some dim and cloudy Great Mystery, wholly
out of the sphere and range of human experience _ like the
grin without any face, which Alice saw in Wonderland
There must be a better way to think of God, a
way which fits our known experience and makes Him a God
in real fellowship and relationship with us, a truly
Emmanuel-God _ God-with-us. It will give us a slight clue, perhaps,
if we first consider how our own higher personal self
operates within us. It is never off apart in a region above our
thoughts, our aspirations, our emotions, our impulses, our
It is always larger, wider, more comprehensive, than
any thought, aspiration, emotion, impulse or instinct, but
at the same time it organizes these lower forces and
functions in us, it uses them as its organs, acts through them
and reveals its nature and character by means of them.
Sometimes an impulse, an instinct, an emotion, or
even a thought may exhibit a large degree of independence
and act in an irrational way. One of these instinctive forces
may carry us whither we would not. Habits seem often to
run themselves, without the need of any spiritual will, like
that materialistic world of the deist.
And yet, as soon as we reach the stage of personal
life, the inner self is always there. It can on occasion
interrupt habit and remould it on better lines. It can direct
attention and so determine the selection of objects in the field
of experience. It can bind many instincts and emotions
together into a higher system of emotions or sentiments and while
it transcends any one of our many impulses or
fragmentary desires it can execute its purpose through these
native tendencies and instinctive activities. It is, in fact,
immanent in all the processes of our complex inner life and
yet transcends them all and is the organic formative spirit
always present whenever we perform any rational exercise of
will or insight.5
God may be thought of in some similar fashion
in relation to the persons who make up the world of
human society and human history. He may be in as
immediate relation to our finite spirits as our own rational self is
in relation to the particular lower functions of our
complex nature. Instead of looking for God, then, behind the
vast mechanism of matter, or beyond the starry spaces, we
should look for Him very much closer home, as the God in
whom we live and move and are; the immanent, and, at the
same time, transcending, Spirit in immediate junction with
our own souls. He is, thus, as Thomas Hill Green used to
say, as near to us as our own conscience is. The Beyond is
within, or, as William James puts it, the inner self is
"conterminous and continuous with a More of the same quality, which
is operative in the universe outside of him," a Wider
Self through whom saving experiences come.6
This junction of our lives with the divine life is
what makes us over-finite, and over-temporal. It makes our
reach exceed our grasp. It explains why we always live ahead
of experience in ideal directions. It is the source of our
sense of obligation, the ground of our pursuit of truth, the
basis of our appreciation of beauty and the spring of all pure
love and dedication.
We can, and often do, live unto ourselves. We go off
on our own tack, just as our native instincts sometimes do.
We live as though there were no over-arching Presence
shaping our destiny. We exhibit our freedom in capricious ways;
we ignore the upward pull; and we act as independent
units. The positive evil and the appalling sin in the world
come from this tendency to caprice, to wayward independence,
to sheer self-will, to lack of vision of the higher unifying
Will and Purpose.
When we rise from our little finite desires to the
wider comprehending purposes that bring the kingdom of God
and make love and good-will prevail in social groups, there
God is revealed and there He is advancing His new creation.
We catch clear glimpses of His character and true
nature through the supreme revealers who have learned how
to deaden love of self and to make their personal lives
co-operative organs of His Spirit.
Above all the ordinary human level of life Jesus
Christ rises, like Mount Shasta above the level of the earth
and sea. No other such inspiration has touched our race,
no such spiritual leadership has appeared in any other
person, no such clear consciousness of God as Father has
been reported elsewhere, no such sacrificial devotion of love
to men has made its power felt. He shows the way, and He
is the way, to the God we want.
This same God, however, is always near and is
always endeavoring to break through with fresh light and with
new leading. But the revelation comes and must come
through persons or through groups of persons, or through
movements that achieve the ends of good-will.
"Through such souls alone.
God stooping shows sufficient of His Light
For us in the dark to rise by.
And I rise."
From the porch of my little summer cottage in Maine
I can see, across the beautiful stretch of lake in
the foreground, the far-distant Kennebago Mountains in
their veil of purple. But we see them only when all the
conditions of sky and air are absolutely right. Most of the time they
are wrapt in clouds or are lost in a dim haze. Our visitors
admire the lake, are charmed with the islands, the picturesque
shore and the surrounding hills, but they do not suspect
the existence of this added glory beyond the hills. We often
tell them of the mountains "just over there," which come
out into full view when the sky clears all the way to the
horizon and the wind blows fine from the northwest. They make
a casual remark about the sufficiency of what is already
in sight, and go their way in satisfied ignorance of the "beyond."
Next day, perhaps _ Oh wonder! the morning
dawns with all the conditions favorable for our distant view.
The air is altogether right for far visibility. The clouds are
swept clean from the western rim, the blue is utterly
transparent _ and there are the mountains! We wish our skeptical
visitors could be with us now. We guess that they would not
easily talk of the sufficiency of the near beauty, if they could
once see the overtopping glory of these mountains now
fully unveiled and revealed.
Something like that, I feel sure, is true of God and
of other great spiritual realities which are linked with His
being. Most of the time we get on with the things that are near
at hand; the things we see and handle and are sure of.
The world is full of utility and we do well to appreciate what
is there waiting to be used. There is always
something satisfying about beauty, and nature is very rich and
lavish with it. Friendship and love are heavenly gifts, and
when these are added to the other good things which the
world gives us, it would seem, and it does seem, to many that
we ought to be satisfied, and not be homesick for the
glory which lies beyond the horizon-line of the senses.
I can not help it; my soul will not stay satisfied
with this near-at-hand supply. A discontent sweeps over me,
an uncontrollable Heimweh, homesickness of soul, surges
up within me and I should be compelled to call the whole
scheme miserable failure, if that near, visible sky-line were the
real boundary of all that is.
Sometimes _ Oh joy! when the inward weather is
just right; when selfish impulse has been hushed; when
the clouds and shadows, which sin makes, are swept away
and genuine love makes the whole inner atmosphere pure
and free from haze, then I know that I find a beyond which
before was nowhere in sight and might easily not have
been suspected. I can not decide whether this extended range
of sight is due to alterations in myself or whether it is due
to some sudden increase of spiritual visibility in the great
reality itself. I only know the fact. Before, I was occupied with
things; now, I commune with God and am as sure of Him as I am
of the mountains beyond my lake, which my skeptical
visitor has not yet seen.
There can be no adequate world here for us without
at least a faith in the reality beyond the line of what we
see with our common eyes. We have times when we can not
live by bread alone, or by our increase of stocks; when we
lose our interest in cosmic forces and need something more
than the slow justice which history weighs out on its
great judgment days. We want to feel a real heart
beating somewhere through things; we want to discover
through the maze a loving will working out a purpose; we want
to know that our costly loyalties, our high endeavors, and
our sacrifices which make the quivering flesh palpitate with
pain, really matter to Someone and fill up what is behind of
His great suffering for love's sake. We can not get on here
with substitutes; we must have the reality itself.
Religion is an awful farce if it is only a play-scheme,
a cinematograph-show, which makes one believe that he
is seeing reality when he is, in fact, being fooled with a
picture. We must at all cost insist on the real things. It is God
we want and not another, the Real Face and not a picture.
"We needs must love the highest when we see it;
Not Lancelot nor another."
He is surely there to be seen, like my mountain.
Days may pass when we only hope and long and guess. Then
the weather comes right, the veil thins away and we see! It
is, however, not a rare privilege reserved for a tiny few. It is
not a grudged miracle, granted only to saints who have
killed out all self. It belongs to the very nature of the soul to
see God. It is what makes life really life. It is as normal a
function as breathing or digestion. Only one must, of all things,
intend to do it!
1. Heb. XI, 1046.
2. Prelude, Book IV.
3. I have been influenced in the formation of my view by
the lectures of my former teacher, Professor George
4. Edward Dowden's Sonnet, Awakening.
5. This illustrative way of thinking of God is
suggestively used by Dr. D. C. Macintosh in his little book,
God in a World at War.
6. See Varieties of Religious
Experience. pp. 508 and 514. "The Beyond Is Within"
is the title of a book by